Polling lines
Polling lines

‘Going ahead with local elections could cost us lives’

TOURISM bosses and medical leaders say the State Government is playing Russian roulette with Gold Coasters' lives and risking the city's reputation by ignoring its own advice to hold the council elections this weekend.

One of the nation's top doctors, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, said the elections had the potential to be a "major mixing event".

Another said it would cost lives, while the Tourism Australia chair said "we must lead by example". "Why is this not obvious to others?"

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

A defiant Annastacia Palaszczuk said the decision to proceed with Saturday's poll was based on "very clear" advice of Chief Medical Officer Jeanette Young, despite increased restrictions introduced by the National Cabinet and closure of the state's borders.

"Dr Young has said it is OK for the elections to proceed. People voting need to bring their own pen or pencil and they need to practice social distancing," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"The health advice is very clear. As long as you practice social distancing there is a very low risk.

"The majority have already voted."

Voters were this week warned they faced a $133 fine if they don't vote.

Gold Coast Medical Association boss Dr Philp Morris said the election should be postponed until the pandemic was over.

"Running the election this weekend will worsen the virus epidemic on the Gold Coast and cost us lives" he said.

"I strongly advise all electors to stay away from polling booths.

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More than 50 per cent of the voting public have already cast their ballots in pre-poll. Picture: Jerad Williams
More than 50 per cent of the voting public have already cast their ballots in pre-poll. Picture: Jerad Williams

"We are a hot spot. There is community transmission here, therefore schools should be closed and nobody should attend a polling booth."

Tourism Australia chair Bob East said: "Our city relies heavily on the visitor economy. Our reputation as a clean, safe and community-minded city is at risk here.

"As a city we must lead by example. Our tourism, hospitality and accommodation providers are suffering. But they are all united in their efforts to be first back into the market with a co-ordinated marketing and promotional campaign when the time is right.

"To protect our industry and thousands of jobs at risk we must do everything to avoid the worst of this hideous virus.

New measures have been introduced to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Picture: Andrew Potts
New measures have been introduced to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Picture: Andrew Potts

"The solution is obvious. We must protect our community from further spread of the virus. We must not harm our reputation as a thoughtful and progressive city. We must postpone the council elections. Why is this not obvious to others?"

Griffith University political analyst Paul Williams said it was too late for the State Government to delay the election.

"Up to half the state has already voted,'' Dr Williams said yesterday.

But he said the Palaszczuk Government could have postponed the election in late February, about a month before the poll.

The election will go ahead on Saturday.
The election will go ahead on Saturday.

Bond University adjunct professor Stephen Holden said images of crowds of voters at polling booths would be bad optics for Queensland as many other developed nations had gone into total lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"It is odd we have closed the borders and have the Government telling us to stay apart, yet they still want people to vote on Saturday," he said.

"It's not a great look but I understand the problem because the Government is stuck between a rock and a very hard place."

Other supporters of postponing the elections are Superfish swim school owner and former Olympian Andrew Baildon and Simon Bennett, managing partner of OMB Solicitors.

Pre-polling at the Helensvale Community Centre on the Gold Coast. Photograph: Paul Weston.
Pre-polling at the Helensvale Community Centre on the Gold Coast. Photograph: Paul Weston.

A spokesman for the Premier said measures had been taken to limit the number of people in polling booths and maintain social distancing.

"The Premier has said she needs mayors and councillors in place to deal with the growing COVID emergency," the spokesman said.

"Mayors run local disaster management groups who report directly into the Queensland Disaster Management Committee. We need those systems in place. Delaying the election just pushes the settlement of those local management committees further into the unknown."

Incumbent Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate backed Ms Palaszczuk's decision, saying it was critical for councils to be freed of caretaker provisions to make decisions.

"In terms of causing reputational damage, there would be more damage if the election was cancelled," he told the Bulletin.

Originally published as 'Going ahead with election could cost us lives'



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